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Book Review: Why Can’t I Visit Grandma Anymore?

Visitation Trouble Down Under

“Why Can’t I Sleep at Nana’s Anymore?” by Leila Friedman, Magistra Publishing Company.

Death, divorce and the problems they present for grandparents and grandchildren are not unique to the United States. In her new book, “Why Can’t I Sleep at Nana’s Anymore?” Leila Friedman outlines and discussed the rights of Australian grandparents when it comes to custody battles involving their grandchildren.

Ms. Friedman is a 71-year-old wife, mother and grandmother of four boys. A retired accountant and freelance writer, she formed the Grandparents Support Group is 1984, and is in close contact with grandparents all over Australia.

Family Complications

In “Why Can’t I…,” Ms. Friedman addresses many of the complexities of death and divorce and how they can act to split up grandparents and grandchildren. But she goes beyond those two event-oriented issues and delves into such slow-boiling subtleties such as the stigma attached to mothers-in-law, the reactions of adult grandchildren to divorce and the implications of grandparental divorce.

But while Ms. Friedman is admittedly dealing with very heavy issues in her book, she writes in a crisp, clean, no-nonsense style that reads very quickly. She also liberally sprinkles amusing and incisive anecdotes gathered from friends and acquaintances as well as lessons learned and insights gained from her own experiences on the lecture trail and the road of life.

In one of the most incisive sections of the book, Ms. Friedman exposes the terms “blended families” or “step-families” for the misnomers they are.

Blended and Stepfamilies

She cites television’s The Brady Bunch as a prime example of the limited view that people have of such families. “The children never go off to see other members of their natural extended families. Supposedly both parents were orphaned and widowed, as there is never any mention of ‘access’.”

She goes on to recount the story of 40-year-old Beth: “…Beth says she never got over the bitterness she felt 30 years ago when her mother married a man with only one child, a daughter about her own age. Both girls had been brought up with the undivided attention of a single parent, with rooms of their own. They were suddenly told they were now sisters, expected to love each other and share all their toys. They also had to share a bedroom.”

The two girls proceeded to act so abominably that they destroyed the new marriage. It is Ms. Friedman’s contention that grandparents should be brought in to help mediate the tensions that can arise in second marriages. They provide a stability and continuity that is often lacking for children when their parents divorce and remarry.

Ms. Freidman asserts that grandparental involvement can help cut down what she sees as an alarmingly high second marriage failure rate.

While the book concentrates on the Australian legal system and the problems grandparents encounter in that country, the book is an excellent choice for grandparents everywhere. It is full of advice and can provide reassurances to grandparents in distress, not the least of which is the knowledge that they are not alone.


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